Tuesday, 21 May 2024

Arts & Life

BEVERLY HILLS CHIHUAHUA (Rated PG)


Looking at the lineup of movies released in recent weeks, the family film seems as rare as healthy eating at a fast-food joint. With the Disney imprimatur on a talking dog story, it’s no wonder that “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” is not an art-house flick catering to a snobbish adult crowd.


Ironically enough, snobbery is very much a theme to this family-oriented entertainment, given how the absurdly ostentatious behavior of wealthy elites who lavish fortune on household pets is mocked as well as vicariously envied. Even though the vacuous Paris Hilton and her celebrity ilk are fortunately not seen, they nicely serve as role models for certain characters.


The opening of “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” sets the stage for the pretentious, showy display of grandiose wealth when pampered Chihuahua Chloe (voiced by Drew Barrymore) lounges around the pool of her Beverly Hills mansion, wearing a diamond necklace and booties. Her owner, Viv (Jamie Lee Curtis), is a cosmetics tycoon who showers attention on the spoiled pooch, who happens to have a social calendar that rivals that of a socialite.


Parading along swank Rodeo Drive, Chloe visits an exclusive dog grooming parlor and goes shopping for new jewelry. It’s wretched excess to the extreme, which frankly doesn’t play very well. But then, it’s the ultimate setup for the pooch’s inevitable comeuppance.


The dog’s life takes a new twist when Viv must depart suddenly for an overseas trip, and as a result Chloe is left in the hands of Viv’s selfish, irresponsible niece Rachel (Piper Perabo), who just wants to party with her empty-headed friends. When her pals decide to go on a road trip to Baja California, Rachel decides to bring Chloe along, with little intention of doing more than minimal babysitting.


Distracted by beach parties, Rachel doesn’t notice that Chloe is kidnapped by criminals who run a dog-fighting ring in Mexico City. Unable to get much help from the police or her friends, Rachel enlists the aid of Viv’s Mexican landscaper Sam (Manolo Cardona), owner of a rambunctious Chihuahua named Papi (voiced by George Lopez) who has a major crush on Chloe.


The search for the missing Chloe takes many detours through the Mexican countryside, as Sam and Rachel try to pick up the trail with the help of Papi. Meanwhile, Chloe ends up as a coming attraction at a dog-fighting show where she will be forced to fight the monstrous Doberman Diablo (voiced by Edward James Olmos).


Before being turned into a chew toy by Diablo, Chloe is rescued by German Shepherd Delgado (Andy Garcia), a former police dog who turned in his badge after a career-ending disability. Still, Delgado is a formidable force, though he has reservations about the loquacious Chloe becoming his sidekick in an effort to return to the United States.


Talking animals own this movie, and as such, their dialog is more substantial than that of the humans who are almost marginalized. That’s why the clever barbs and insults, though limited in supply, come from the bickering four-legged characters. Teamed as conniving con artists, a thieving rodent (voiced by Cheech Marin) and his iguana buddy make a fine mess of things. One of the big scenes involves Chloe and Delgado being rescued by an army of feral Chihuahuas when the domesticated pair faces immediate danger from a pack of mountain lions.


Notwithstanding the backdrop of Southern California overindulgence, “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” has a certain amount of charm, even though overall the film is rather bland and passably amusing.


However, keep in mind that the target audience is the one that still needs a ride from mom and dad to the local cinema. For a family outing, it’s not a bad deal.


DVD RELEASE UPDATE


“Joy Ride,” starring heartthrob Paul Walker, was one of those popcorn thriller movies that capture the attention of teenagers in droves. It remains to be seen whether “Joy Ride 2: Dead Ahead” will do the same, considering it’s a video release available only in an unrated version. Hey, that’s a nifty marketing tool for the under-18 crowd.


A white-knuckle thrill ride awaits four young travelers on their way to Las Vegas when their car breaks down in a remote area of the sweltering desert. They “borrow” a car from a vacant home with plans to return it, except the owner is a sadistic truck driver going by the CB-handle “Rusty Nail” (the same deranged person from the original film).


Well, you can imagine what happens to the teens, including Nicki Aycox and Nick Zano, when the mad trucker, playing increasingly ruthless mind games, hunts them down with his blood-soaked 18-wheeler. Let’s just say it is not pretty.


Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.


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LAKE COUNTY – Lake County Poet Laureate Mary McMillan has recently published a collection of her poetry, “This Wanting,” available at Lake County bookstores, at the Lake County Arts Council Gallery in Lakeport and online at Lulu.com.


“This Wanting” is McMillan’s first collection of poems. Poems in the book include “Fisherwoman” and “Reunion,” poems she read at her inauguration in March, along with others that she has written during the last 20 years.


In the book she arranged the poems to tell the story of the trauma that initiated her journey into poetry, and the recovery she has experienced since that time.


She will sign books and talk about her poems at three locations in upcoming months. On Oct. 10, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., she will be at Catfish Books in Lakeport. On Nov. 7, from 3 p.m. to 5 pm., she will be at Watershed Books in Lakeport. On Nov. 8 at 2 p.m. she will be at Wild About Books in Clearlake. Refreshments will be served at all readings.


At 7 p.m. on Jan. 29 McMillan will be the featured reader at Writers Read, a monthly reading venue in Ukiah, at Colored Horse Studio. For more information go to www.coloredhorse.com/WritingPoetry/PoetryEvents.


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EAGLE EYE (Rated PG-13)


For positive proof that the fertile mind of Steven Spielberg does not always yield fantastic results, look no further than the cinematic disaster that is the quasi-technological thriller “Eagle Eye.”


Maybe the famed jet-setting director of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” was spending too much time in London, where surveillance cameras on street corners are more omnipresent than the growing number of unwelcome “red light” traffic cameras popping up around our country. A palpable sense of being watched too carefully may have gripped Spielberg with some sort of dread. But acting as executive producer, at least he turned the concept into a ridiculous popcorn movie.


The thought of us becoming afraid of our cell phones after watching “Eagle Eye” was Spielberg’s intended effect as much as he made us scared of going into the ocean after seeing “Jaws.” Regrettably, “Eagle Eye” is total lacking this psychological fear factor, because the central premise of this high-octane action farce is that a massive surveillance system run from the bowels of the Pentagon is capable of controlling every phone, TV, camera, traffic signal, aircraft and construction crane in the world. I probably overlooked a few other things, but hopefully you get the idea that “Eagle Eye” is basically science fiction not even remotely fixed in current reality.


Shia LaBeouf’s Jerry Shaw, a slacker working at a Chicago copy store, is suddenly called home for the funeral of his identical twin brother, an Air Force officer killed in an auto accident. Returning to his grubby apartment, Jerry finds $750,000 in his bank account and enough weapons and bomb-making equipment to associate him with a terrorist cell. A disembodied voice on a cell phone warns him to run or be arrested, and before he can flee, he’s taken into custody by the FBI and interrogated by Agent Thomas Morgan (Billy Bob Thornton). Since this movie is an Alfred Hitchcock-type, falsely-accused-man-on-the-run story, Jerry ends up being freed by a swinging construction crane crashing through the window of his holding room.


Meanwhile, single mom Rachel Holloman (Michelle Monaghan) is sending her 8-year-old son, Sam, off on a train from Chicago to Washington, D.C., to play trumpet with his school band at the Kennedy Center. During a rare night out with her pals, Rachel receives an odd call on her cell phone from the same female voice, in which she’s instructed to follow orders or her son will die. The threat is made credible because the caller produces images of Sam on a wall of TV screens across the street.


Next thing you know, Jerry finds himself sitting in a Porsche next to Rachel, and the two of them are literally off to a competitive race with unseen forces to carry out a series of missions that will implicate them ever more deeply into serious terrorist acts.


Spinning wildly out of control, the plot becomes so unnecessarily complicated and convoluted that the notion of the mysterious caller orchestrating a series of suspicious moves is increasingly laughable. The strangely disembodied voice is able to track their every move, and has seemingly limitless control over their fates. Rational thought makes you wonder how any of this is remotely possible.


On a subway train, Jerry gets a call on the cell phone of a sleeping passenger sitting in close proximity. Later on, you marvel at the ability of two novices like Jerry and Rachel managing a holdup of armed guards transporting a briefcase under tight security.


If you’re a cinema buff, you might pass the time by counting the inevitable Hitchcock inspirations. All that is missing is a crop duster chasing Jerry and Rachel through a cornfield. But while the great master of suspense played on one’s fears with mental tricks, the director of “Eagle Eye,” D.J. Caruso (who had better results with “Disturbia”), seems to be auditioning for Jerry Bruckheimer’s next monster action picture. After all, Caruso works at a fever pitch to produce a nearly unstoppable run of chases, car crashes and explosions that leave a long trail of victims.


If anything, “Eagle Eye” is a slick production that may lull the most gullible into believing that it is a worthy entertainment. Don’t be fooled by this preposterous joke. The only saving grace to this film is the welcome presence of Billy Bob Thornton, amusing as a grizzled veteran unwilling to take crap from anyone.


DVD RELEASE UPDATE


Vintage TV series are increasingly being released on DVD, often with a few bonus features tossed in for good measure.


“My Three Sons: Season One, Volume One” is a classic sitcom starring Fred MacMurray as Steve Douglas, an engineer and widower who must deal with the trials and tribulations of raising his three sons – Mike, Robbie and Chip – with the help of their maternal grandfather “Bub” (William Frawley).


Guest stars during the show’s first season included Dick Van Dyke and Desi Arnaz Jr. Airing over 12 seasons, “My Three Sons” is a beloved iconic series.


Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.


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CLEARLAKE – Wild About Books will hold a reception for local artists on Saturday, Oct. 18.


The event, which will be held from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., will offer community members a chance to meet Lake County artists.


Lake County has a wealth of talented, creative people and we are very lucky to have a few of those showing work at Wild About Books. Local art will be 20 percent off during the event, which is a great way to do some early shopping for the holidays.


The following artists' work will be available:


Mary Beth Alteneder: Fine art

Betty Baker – Needlework originals

Michael Barrish – Music CD

Barbara Jo Bloomquist – Music CD

Kevin Byrnes – Lapidary art

Donna Crawford – Purses and totes

Cathy Davis – Computer art

Rosemary Dontje – Clay art

Sue Gill – Gourd art

Andi Gletty – Fine art

Carol Johnson – Tiles

Jeri Sofka – Photography,

Doug Marble – Intarsia, inlay and knives

Sheila O’Hara – Weaving

Zack Peters – Tie dye

Amanda Rawlings – Bead art

Robert Roberts – Fine art

J. P. Sarlande – Fine art

Rebecca Stark – Fine art and gourd art

Bernadette Straub – Sculpture

Sandra Wade – Poetry on CD

Karen Winkeller – Bead and jewelry art

Raul Wybo-Gilbert – Photography

 

Come and help celebrate the many talented individuals we have in this county. Refreshments will be served.

 

For an updated list of times and dates for upcoming events, stop by and see us or call the store at 994-WILD (9453).


Wild About Books is located at 14290 Olympic Drive in Clearlake, next door to Lisa's clothing store.


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LAKEPORT – Local author R. V. Schmidt will share his stories and inspiration at Watershed Books in Lakeport on Friday, Oct. 3.


The reading will take place from 3:30 p.m. until 5:30 p.m.


Of Schmidt's writing, Hal Z. Bennett writes, "While seldom autobiographical, like all fiction writers he draws from the passions of his own life, spinning tales of experience that were better and worse than his own. Richard's writing shows how our own struggles and griefs and joys and sorrows are merely raw materials for creating artifacts that witness the human condition and offer courage, hope and at least a few lessons for making our own lives a little better."


Please join Schmidt at Watershed Books, 305 N. Main in Lakeport, for good conversation and good refreshments.


Call 263.5787 for more information.


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GHOST TOWN (Rated PG-13)


Tempting though it may be to label “Ghost Town” a romantic comedy, the designation doesn’t seem to fit comfortably, particularly when the lead character is a curmudgeon nearly incapable of redemption, let alone romantic conquest. But if you want to take a cynical, antisocial snob and overall self-consumed loner and turn him into something almost barely tolerable, then it helps that he has a British accent.


Well, the appeal is not so much the manner of speech, but British comedic actor Ricky Gervais, who became famous for playing the much-despised office manager in the BBC Series “The Office,” has a spot-on delivery for barbs and snide witticisms.


Making his first star turn in film, Gervais plays Bertram Pincus, a Manhattan dentist with the least friendly bedside manner. He’s known to stuff more cotton into a patient’s mouth, mainly to silence incessant chatter he wishes to avoid. Office parties are anathema to him, as he makes lame excuses to his colleague (Aasif Mandvi), and then slips out the door to shun interaction with the lowly office staff. Presumably, the good doctor is in a hurry to retreat to his nice apartment, where he slips into pajamas and works on crossword puzzles neatly arranged on a table. Dr. Pincus’ ordered life, though, is rudely interrupted in the wake of a near-death experience.


At the beginning of the film, Bertram checks into the hospital for a routine medical procedure, only to later learn from his surgeon (Kristen Wiig) that he was clinically dead for a period of seven minutes.


The funniest thing about his visit to the hospital was the way Dr. Pincus would refuse to answer some of the more standard questions posed by a nurse seeking to fill out lengthy personal medical history forms.


As for the not-so-funny business of short-term death, Bertram soon learns that he has acquired an annoying ability to see ghosts. Even worse, these undead spirits desperately want something from him, since they are unable to reveal themselves to other human beings.


The most irritating ghost of them all is Frank Herlihy (Greg Kinnear), a handsome, debonair, tuxedo-wearing unfaithful husband who, after losing his life in a freak accident, decides to do the right thing by his widowed wife, Gwen (Tea Leoni).


Pushy and obnoxious, Frank pesters Bertram into helping him break-up Gwen’s impending marriage to Richard (Billy Campbell), a do-gooder lawyer thought to be a gold-digger anxious to get his hands on Gwen’s fortune. Unfortunately, Gwen lives in the same building as Dr. Pincus, and has often been treated rudely by the dentist, who won’t let her in the elevator, snubs her in hallways or steals her cabs. As ridiculous as it sounds, Frank thinks Bertram can somehow tempt Gwen away from her fiancé.


To get Bertram to do his bidding, Frank threatens to let all the other pesky poltergeists, still lingering on earth for some unfinished business, know that the dentist is able to see dead people. Soon enough, the waiting room at his dental office is full of people seeking something other than routine teeth cleanings.


Naturally, there are funny situations where Bertram is caught talking to the persistent spirits that no living being can see. The humor is reminiscent of the old “Topper” TV series in which a staid banker had to cope with the demands of his undead houseguests.


The difficult part of accepting “Ghost Town” as a romantic comedy is that Bertram is not even remotely close to a romantic character. While the leading man doesn’t have to look like Cary Grant, the pudgy, awkward and perpetually cranky Dr. Pincus doesn’t fit the mold for the conventional candidate.


Picking Ricky Gervais to work against type may be a bold move, but he’s too unlikely to be coached by a suave character like Greg Kinnear to step into the breach so as to sweep a gorgeous babe like Tea Leoni off her feet. And yet, there’s an odd, if uncomfortable, chemistry between the British crank and the American beauty.


“Ghost Town” may not fully succeed as a romantic comedy, but it has plenty of laughs that come almost exclusively from the offbeat, unorthodox performance of Ricky Gervais.


DVD RELEASE UPDATE


Speaking of guys who should be romantic leading men, Hugh Jackman stars in the sexy suspense film “Deception” being released on DVD and Blu-ray.


He’s not exactly the good guy this time around, considering that he’s playing a slick lawyer friend to Ewan McGregor’s naïve accountant. Jackman lures his buddy into an elite and clandestine sex club known as “The List.” The mild-mannered fool becomes enamored with this new lifestyle, but soon becomes the prime suspect in a woman’s disappearance and a multi-million dollar heist. Let the fun begin.


By the way, I know next to nothing about this Blu-ray technology, except to know that these types of discs always cost more money. However, the studios are pushing this high-tech stuff more and more.


Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.


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